I am a New Orleanian trapped in a Chicagoan’s body.
I just realized this as I sit here streaming traditional New Orleans jazz on WWOZ-FM while a pot of Red Beans and Rice slow cooks in the kitchen, filling the house with the spicy, smoky aroma of a lazy Monday afternoon in the Crescent City.
You see, red beans and rice is traditionally made on Mondays using the leftovers from Sunday’s dinners. I have an old Times-Picayune cookbook that says this tradition that goes back to the city’s colonial days, when ham was what was for dinner on Sunday, and the scraps and leftovers were boiled with a pot of beans all day Monday, while the washing was done.
It is a dish still closely identified with New Orleans. When you visit the city, you will see it on a lot of restaurant menus, and a big pot of it is cooked whenever people gather together to watch a Saints game, for Mardi Gras or second line celebrations, or any other festive occasion, from what I’m told.
Red beans and rice was Louis Armstrong’s favorite dish. How cool is that? Also, how cool is it that the city’s airport is named for Louis Armstrong?! What a place! (Can you imagine naming O’Hare after Chicago musicians? Buddy Guy International Airport? Styx Field? Wait, I actually kind of like both of those.)
You can put a lot of things in red beans and rice, besides the titular ingredients. Traditionally, there’s a mix of vegetables and ham or sausage in a tomato-based sauce, but there are really no limits. If you serve it with jalapeno cornbread, please call me because I will be there.
I like to mix all the ingredients the night before in the crock pot, then refrigerate it until the next morning. Before going to work, I pop it into the slow-cooker, set the timer for 8 hours on low and when I get home the house is filled with magic. Must drive the dogs nuts.
If you’re home, you can also cook it on the stovetop over a low flame for several hours. Just give it a stir once in a while when you walk past it.
If you buy one of those boxes of Zatarain’s red beans and rice, your heart is in the right place, but you’re not doing it right.
Red Beans and Rice
16 oz package Polska Kielbasa (or Turkey Kielbasa), sliced into medallions
1 medium white onion, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2-3 jalapenos, seeds and ribs removed, diced
15 oz can whole peeled tomtoes, hand crushed
12 oz can diced tomatos and chiles
2 cans red beans, drained and rinsed
1 bay leaf
1 cup Spicy V-8
2 cups cooked rice
Combine all ingredients, except the rice, in crock pot. Stir together and cook on low for 8-10 hours, stirring occasionally.
To plate, press rice into a ramekin and invert in the center of a soup bowl. Ladle the red beans mixture around the rice, and garnish with parsley or cilantro sprigs.
Serve with jalapeno cornbread or any kind of fresh made bread, turn on a little Professor Longhair and you officially are an honorary New Orleanian.
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans? Share your Crescent City favorites in the comments section below. And thanks for looking at my blog!
Nice recipe. Very sophisticated. Hey I have a question Chef DMC! We have a bunch of veggies from the season end of our CSA – like a bunch of turnips, parsnips, carrots, various squash and so on. I’m thinking of making a veg stew in crock pot. Any guidance or words of wisdom? BTW I’m trying to phase processed meats (suasage, bacon, etc.) out of my life.
I wouldn’t use rutabaga, turnip or parsnip unless you want your stock to taste like those vegetables. They would overpower everything else. Here’s my vegetable stock:
3-4 tomatoes, quartered
3 carrots, peeled, rough chop
2 potatoes, rough chop
2 onions, peeled, rough chop
2 celery stalks, rough chop
1 apple, cored, rough chop
1/2 bunch parsley
5 cloves garlic, smashed but not crushed
10 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
8 cups water
Combine all in stock pot, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook 1 hour. Strain.
Or you can remove the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf and parsley and puree the stock to get a thick base for soups and stews.
BTW – here’s my less sophisticated bean recipe. It is quaintly titled: Ethnic Beans and Brown Rice
1 can black beans
1 can garbanzo beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
thai chili garlic sauce (cock sauce)
I just bought a big container of turmeric for another recipe and was thinking about what I could use it for. Is the Thai chili garlic sauce the same thing as Sriracha?
Do you think I could use chorizo for the kielbasa? Looks yum
Oh, sure. Traditionally, andouille sausage is used, and I use it when I can find it. But sadly, there’s not a lot of andouille available in Chicago, unless you go to a specialty market.
I like kielbasa or turkey kielbasa because of the smoky flavor it gives the RB&R. But chorizo would be good, too.
Yummy! Very good use of beans
Thanks! It’s one of those dishes that is even better the second day.
I don’t think there’s a better budget friendly meal than dried beans. Black eye peas are also delicious over rice. I particularly like Donald Link’s version from his book Real Cajun.
The sausage is really important because that’s where most of the flavor comes from. If you want authentic Cajun sausage, you can order it from Don’s Specialty Meats or Best Stop, both in Scott, LA, but then it wouldn’t be a budget meal 😉
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